Experts can lay bricks or blocks, quickly and well. Amateurs can usually do one or the other, but not both.

bricklayer building a brickwall

It you are content to work slowly, and if necessary to knock down a piece of wall and start again (if you do it before the mortar is dry you can brush off the bricks and all you have wasted is a few shovelsful of mortar), there’s no reason why a householder shouldn’t be his own bricklayer. Once you’ve begun to master the technique a whole range of jobs becomes possible, from making dwarf walls for the base of a greenhouse or garden shed to building a garage or a house extension. Start with a garden wall – if the results are a little irregular, you can always claim that the rustic look was intended.

Most tools needed can be hired or bought: brick trowel, pointing trowel, bricklayer’s spirit level (a yard long with two bubbles so it can be used horizontally and vertically), club hammer, bolster chisel, bricklayer’s line, a rule.

bricklayer using spirit level & brick trowel

To cut a brick, chip a groove in it with hammer and bolster and tap unwanted side sharply. When a bricklayer does it the brick falls neatly in half; amateurs can use a lot of bricks before they master the knack (though a brick which hasn’t broken cleanly can still be used provided the face side is the right length). An easy way round this is to use a brick saw, a handsaw with hardened teeth set into the blade, and simply saw the bricks to size.

Wear working or gardening gloves; the mortar is hard on the hands. For a garden wall, mark out and dig a foundation twice the width of the wall; take out topsoil until you reach a firm base, the deeper the footing is, the better. Drive in pegs and level them, using a line or a straight-edged board and spirit level, so peg heads are about 7cm below ground level. Now fill trench with concrete (1 part cement, 6 of all-in ballast) to the top of the pegs and leave it to harden.

foundation garden wall

There are hundreds of different types of bricks, of different strengths, colours, finishes and prices; and the mortar in which they are set depends on the brick and the job it has to do.

extension brick cavity wall

Bonds are the patterns in which bricks are laid – English bond, stretcher , Flemish bond. Their purpose, apart from appearance, is to ensure that, for the sake of strength, no vertical joint comes directly above another. With foundations laid, stretch a line to mark where the face of the wall is to be, put a pile of bricks near each end.
bricks joints

If it is dry weather moisten them, the bricks should feel damp, dust-free mix mortar. Bricklaying is a hard job but also relaxing if you do it as hobby.

Demolishing an old conservatory and building an extension

Sometimes, building a small extension can be done very cheaply if the new extension can make use of three existing walls. You might not need Planning Permission, but you must apply for Building Control by submitting a Building Notice and pay the required fee. Note: if you submit the Building Notice but you do not pay the fee – the Building Notice is ignored by the Council.

old conservatory

demolition old conservatory
Demolition of the old conservatory

Because there are already three existing walls, the old property and the neighbour’s extension wall, in this case we have an U – shaped site. After getting the neighbour to sign the Party Wall Agreement, the wall can be used as part of the new extension.

Infill extension

Due to a tree close by, the Building Control asked for the foundation to be 1.5 deep.

foundation infill extension

Because the foundation was small in size, mixing the concrete needed to fill up the footing was done by hand.

mixing concrete foundation mixer

The trench does not have to be filled up to the rim, it can be done bellow the ground level. Just make sure is levelled, it makes the bricklayer’s job easier.

wet concrete trench foundation

For this particular home extension, the roof is a flat roof ( warm decking – warm roof ). You can also see the brickwork bellow the DPC level ( damp proof course )

flat roof construction

flat roof structure - bellow DPC brickwork

The flat roof is covered by fibreglass and for the light we installed a Velux window right in the middle of the roof.

Having a large roof window installed, will provide natural light.

roof window flat fibreglass roof

double glazing extension french door
Double glazing extension french door

extension flooring